back to article Time for a cracker joke: What's got one ball and buttons in the wrong place?

How many sleeps 'till Christmas? We don't care, because here at El Reg, we count in On Calls, and we can tell you there are plenty to come, so fret not. This week's On Call column of tech problems solved with panache stars not one, but two basic user errors that took very little thought to fix. Just the kind of thing the IT …


  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Power to the people

    The team was having the weekly meeting in bosses office. Boss wants to show us the usual performance figures and turns her laptop round so we could all see it, explaining that the poke mounted dirty big monitor (DBM) on her desk had stopped working

    I looked across her desk. The DBM was edge on to me and I could see the mains power rocker switch.

    Yes, it was off.

    With a suitable "excuse me", I leaned across the teak and tipped the power switch, explaining that these things work much better when turned on.

    Anon ' cos she might read this .

    1. VikiAi Silver badge

      Re: Power to the people

      Just a few months back, I received a non-starting LCD TV from another section of where I work that was hoping I could fix it (I pull a lot of monitors and TVs from e-waste, about half of which just need new power supply capacitors, so have that reputation). When I benched it ready to unscrew the back and check the caps for obvious bulges, I noticed there was a rocker switch under the bottom of the bezel. In just the right place so that if the TV was placed on the floor without its stand (such as when getting ready to wall-mount it), it would sit on the switch and flip it off. The switch turned out to be a secondary hard power switch (presumably to save power-conscious people the trouble of reaching behind to the power point). In fairness to my colleagues, the switch was quite discrete, and I only noticed it once I had the TV face down on the bench with the bottom of the bezel towards me.

      1. Symon Silver badge

        Re: Power to the people

        Some background.

        The epidemic is more or less over now, which is bad news for dumpster divers.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Power to the people

          "The epidemic is more or less over now"

          For some values of "more or less"

        2. J__M__M

          Re: Power to the people

          The bad caps thing has been over for a long time, but that doesn't mean the caps still aren't the first to go.

  2. Symon Silver badge

    "he had plugged the network cable into the modem"

    Well, that won't work nowadays as the modem would probably have an RJ11 connection and the network an RJ45. But you can still plug the modem cable into the network hole should you so desire. Or so I'm told. Ahem...

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Interestingly, you can put a Yubikey USB dongle into an RJ45 port! I was talking on the phone and trying to sign in and was looking at the screen, whilst sticking the dongle in the side of my laptop, it went in, but no ding sound and it didn't light up. I looked down at the laptop and saw that it was stuck in the network port.

      1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

        You can also get...

        The really confusing USB/ESATA ports. Which always felt weird and not in a good way.

        1. Waseem Alkurdi

          Re: You can also get...


          The really confusing USB/ESATA ports. Which always felt weird and not in a good way.

          The HP Pavilion dv{4,5,6} Entertainment Notebook PC line had an eSATA socket that also accepted USB 2.0.

          Talk about weirdness.

          1. J. Cook Silver badge

            Re: You can also get...

            I have an ancient dell lattitude E6320 sitting in my 'scratch monkey' bin with one of these; the eSATA port was for an external drive bay; the USB connector was for normal USB things. (I want to say that the drive bay could let you swap the normally installed optical drive for a floppy drive, but I don't have the floppy drive that fits that specific dock.)

          2. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

            Re: You can also get...

            My wife's venerable Sony vaio does the same (I'm trying to get it taken out back and shot but she won't let me put it down yet)

          3. Lennart Sorensen

            Re: You can also get...

            That sounds like an eSATAp connector. Not that weird, other than not being an official standard. Many systems have had them.

          4. Roger B

            Re: You can also get...

            The Dell Studio 17 that I am using to type this has an eSATA that takes USB or is it USB that takes eSATA either way, never used it.

            1. Trixr Bronze badge

              Re: You can also get...

              eSATA takes USB. I've only used it for USB - works fine.

      2. phuzz Silver badge

        "you can put a Yubikey USB dongle into an RJ45 port"

        With a bit of force you can fit any standard USB (A) connector into a RJ45 port.

        As I found out when a user came to me complaining that their laptop dock/port expander wasn't working (well, actually they were complaining that their email wasn't coming through). When I got there my first thought was to check the ethernet cable, which was plugged securely into the dock, and the USB connection for that was also plugged securely into...the RJ45 port in their laptop.

        I did congratulate them for managing to do something I had never thought possible, but they didn't seem that enthused.

        If you're going to try this, pick an ethernet port you don't care about, it might well damage it a bit.

    2. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

      I'm reminded of an old saying...

      "Any hole's a goal"

      I'll get my coat - it's the dirty tan macintosh...

    3. Steve 53

      Re: New???

      I was thinking, that would be hard work.

      That said, back in the day I spent quite some time diagnosing a network card issue before realising the user had plugged into an ISDN TA rather than the 10/100 NIC. (Both RJ45)

      1. Chris King Silver badge

        Re: New???

        "...plugged into an ISDN TA rather than the 10/100 NIC. (Both RJ45)"

        I used to see this a lot with German students turning up with hand-me-down PC's. Usually reported as a "No network" problem, and the sole RJ45 connector on the machine would be attached to an AVM Fritz! ISDN card.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      At my fisrt job...

      They gave me a new PC to setup - and it came with an Ethernet card installed, and there was an Ethernet cable in the box - although, as I discovered later, the company was using a Token Ring network - I had never seen one until then, and wasn't able to recognize its connectors.

      So I plugged the Ethernet card into what looked a Ethernet port under my desk - but it was actually a another phone line.

      Later they explained someone should have showed up to replace the card, but that day he didn't.

      1. Martin-73 Silver badge

        Re: At my fisrt job...

        I've seen this with some Openreach supplied xDSL filters here in the UK. The connector for the 'broadband' side is an RJ45 (bizarrely) . People see a port labelled broadband, with an RJ45 jack on it... and ... I get calls where the Hub (broadband modem router)* is still in the box because 'we didn't need it'. Which designer thought that connector choice was sensible.

        *probably the same one who thought calling a combined modem router the same name as another piece of networking equipment was a good idea

        1. d3vy Silver badge

          Re: At my fisrt job...


          Our splitters from open reach always had an rj11 on the "internet" side.. never seen on with rj45.

          Still quite possible to stick an rj11 into a rj45 port on the back of a PC... My first job was tech support round the time that people were switching from 56k modems to dsl.. had this at least once a week.

    5. bpfh Bronze badge

      And if you are really motivated...

      on the old Latitude D610's (IIRC), if you tried very very hard, you could force an ethernet plug into the air vent before calling the helldesk that I needed to check the meeting room network connectivity from our database sales manager...

    6. longtimeReader

      Someone took down our department network for more than a day by plugging the token ring cable into the monitor adapter in the PC. They had the same connector. Took us a while to work out what had broken.

      1. Saruman the White

        The pile of tokens on the floor should have been a clue.

        Excuse me, looking for my coat ...

        1. Chunky Munky

          Proof positive

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        About 2012 ish.

        Our VOIP phones have two RJ45 ports. One for the LAN the other to daisychain a PC.

        We used to keep spare Ethernet cables connected to the floor ports in the conference rooms.

        So during a meeting a manager sees the unused Ethernet cable and open RJ45 port on the phone and gets the idea they should be connected.

        Oh and Spanning Tree was not enabled.

        Hilarity ensued for about an hour.

        Found the phone. Manager confessed. Spanning tree enabled shortly thereafter.

        1. Andytug

          If the phone to PC cable goes into the desk and back out again (for tidiness) you often also find them with the phone in RJ45 port and out RJ45 port connected together by the same cable, with the user wondering why the phone is dead.....

    7. Snarky Puppy

      I've had this problem all my life - always sticking it in the wrong hole.

      1. VikiAi Silver badge

        It is likewise possible for an undergraduate uni student to fit a LP-E6N battery in the camera the wrong way around.


        Getting it out again requires a technician, though. And some long-nose pliers and a strong grip.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "As a manager in IT, such a rookie mistake would be embarrassing,"

    When was the last time any IT manager had any feelings, leave alone being capable of embarrassment? And the last couple of IT managers I had prided themselves on having no clue whatsoever about IT, only about management (at which they were also a disaster).

    Anonymous because some of those IT managers are still alive and the one thing they excel at is holding a grudge.

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Embarrasing

      The I.T services company I was at prior to current one actually hired a manager (of techies) specifically for his complete lack of I.T. knowledge.

      The mind boggles

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Embarrasing

        specifically for his complete lack of I.T. knowledge

        Maybe his boss wanted to have someone to blame for all the cockups arising from his own policy decisions.

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: Embarrasing

          aka: Corporate or Department Sacrificial Lamb. also known as "A scapegoat". I've seen too many of them to know they are real and not a myth.

        2. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Embarrasing

          This FFS is classic case of "A manager only needs to know how to manage" school of management. My assumption being that the academics who teach management ( and do fancy research) don't actually know anything about the work of the companies, if any , that they've managed

          1. Andrew Moore Silver badge

            Re: Embarrasing

            We have one of those: He once started a meeting by declaring "I don't know anything about IT but if I want something done, I want it done now!" I pointed out that the first half of his declaration negated the second half.

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Embarrasing

            "My assumption being that the academics who teach management ( and do fancy research) don't actually know anything about the work of the companies, if any , that they've managed"

            There are actually two assumptions in there.

      2. DuchessofDukeStreet

        Re: Embarrasing

        Alternatively, sometimes that's the only way to have a manager who doesn't try and interfere with what the workforce are doing, and leaves them to get on with their areas of expertise whilst protecting them from the non-techie corporate garbage.

      3. MrReynolds2U

        Re: Embarrasing

        sounds like it could be the plot of a C4 sitcom

  4. sandman

    Hand Holding

    I used to work for a global company that was trying to specialize in eLearning. Because of the "global" bit we started using conferencing software (Centra for those old enough to remember it). Our CEO found it extremely difficult to use, so during the conferences, I'd go into her office and literally guide her hand and mouse around, pressing on her finger to click. I rather admired her for admitting she was finding it difficult to use and not being afraid that the whole company could see me holding hands with her. ;-) (Reader, I didn't marry her).

    1. Symon Silver badge

      Re: Hand Holding

      "I'd go into her office"

      Enter Sandman. Sorry ---->

    2. Tikimon Silver badge

      Re: Hand Holding

      "No sir! I didn't see you playing with your dolls again!"

  5. Paul Herber


    It's Friday, it's five to five, and it's Cracker Joke.

    <Where's me coat?>

    1. Christoph Silver badge

      Re: Friday

      Where's the cabbage icon?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not user error

    For once. It is understandable for the user not to know what a mouse is when they have never used one. A fault of the IT person for not leaving a note to explain things.

    Anon, cos' well I expect a few people may disagree

    1. Nick Kew Silver badge

      Re: Not user error

      Not really anyone's fault. And nothing bad happened - they laughed it off.

      A lot of helpdesk-type issues are not really anyone's fault. It's how you tell 'em that makes for an anecdote. Best ever has got to be those Norwegian TV folks.

    2. MiguelC Silver badge

      Re: Not user error

      In my early life, I taught some basic computer intro courses for people who -mostly- never had used computers before. Once there was a lady who complained about the difficulty in using the mouse as the cursor moved on the wrong direction(s). Sure enough, the mouse's cord was under her wrist and all went smoothly after showing her the right way to hold the device...

      1. LDS Silver badge

        "the mouse's cord was under her wrist"

        She was right - if you tell them it's a mouse, did you ever see a mouse with its tail sticking out of its head?

      2. tim 13

        Re: Not user error

        I worked with a guy who used it like that, he had used them since they first came out (he was old school ICL) and was never shown the 'right' way until he had already got proficient like that. While pressing the buttons with the palm of his hand was OK I don't know how he got on with wheel mice.

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          Re: Not user error

          "I worked with a guy who used it like that"


          Did he have L & R written on his hands to facilitate driving.

          " was never shown the 'right' way" FFS 20 seconds of using the thing you show you the right way.

          If it dosent you are not a thinker and have zero independant thought processes , you are a programmable meatbag , you know , like in the beancounters office?

          I've seen films where the zombies have more intuition than that.

          Its lucky his mommy showed him the right way to dress himself , or he'd be walking arounf looking into the hood of his jacket.

          1. VikiAi Silver badge

            Re: Not user error

            One of my uni lecturers (about 20 years ago!) once sheepishly admitted that he had spent several minutes that morning wondering what was wrong with his mouse before realising it was up-side-down.


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